"We love her. We are going to miss her dreadfully, and we are absolutely devastated."
This was the reaction from Charlotte Dawson's sister Vicky last night, adding the celebrity's family had "no indication" anything was troubling her.
A security guard found Dawson, 47, dead in her Woolloomooloo wharf apartment at 1.18pm yesterday. She took her own life. Dawson had a public history of depression and had been hospitalised at least twice after suicide attempts in recent years.
Yesterday, family, friends and former colleagues spoke of a smart, funny and generous woman.
"She would give her last penny to somebody if she felt they needed it more," Vicky Dawson said.
"She was generous of spirit and loving . . . she had her demons, and other people didn't like her because of the things that she said, but she was always very forthright. She would always fight in somebody else's corner.
"She would fight even though the bullies were bullying her. She would fight for them not to bully other people."
Vicky said their sister Robin Barclay had been in touch with Charlotte by email just two days ago. "There was no indication that this would happen. None whatsoever."
She agreed with some of the friends who yesterday said Dawson had trouble accepting how loved she was. "She didn't have a very good feeling of self-worth."
Julia Hartley Moore, the private investigator who helped Dawson track down her birth mother and was a panellist on the Dawson-hosted television show How's Life, recalled the celebrity's humour - and vulnerability.
"She'd pat her cheek, and say, ‘hey Julia, kiss my arse'. She'd had the fat sucked out of her bottom, and shoved into her face."
One day, she called Hartley Moore into her dressing room to feel her fake breasts.
"I'm standing there, with my hand on her boob … she was so open about all that. But there was incredible vulnerability. I'm a mother. There was thing, where you just felt like giving her a hug, giving her a cuddle."
Dawson was supremely talented, said Hartley Moore, "but you knew there was this other side to Charlotte that was damaged . . . Charlotte was searching for something and she was so good and so successful, but it was never enough. There had to be more . . . she was always looking for more. And she actually had it."
"Of course she had darkness," said Joe Cotton, More FM radio host and close friend of Dawson's in the mid 2000s.
"She swung between wanting everyone to leave her alone, and also constantly wanting to feel like people loved her. And the truth is, they did, they totally did - but I don't think she could ever accept that."
Cotton and Dawson hit the headlines in 2004. The pair became friends as contestants on reality television show Celebrity Treasure Island - and later the subject of sex tape allegations.
"That stuff's buried," Cotton said yesterday, remembering a friend who was "hilarious and so kind and so obviously crazy, but not in a negative way. Outlandish. She gave me some amazing advice: ‘don't trust anybody and don't let the f...ers mess with you'."
Cotton said she remembered visiting Dawson in Auckland Hospital, years ago, after a suicide attempt. "And in normal Charlotte style, that time, when I showed up, she just said, ‘oh everyone's being so overdramatic' . . .
"She spent so much time instilling confidence into other people and telling them to be strong and together, ‘don't let people mess with you, don't back down, own yourself and love yourself', and yet she struggled with it. No matter how much love she got, and there was plenty of it going round from her friends, it obviously just wasn't enough."
Long-time agent Andy Haden said Dawson "grew up without a father, and I think she dwelt on that quite a bit."
She had referred to Haden as "the father I never had" and he said yesterday he was very touched when she came back from Australia to attend his 60th birthday.
"I felt very privileged . . . I've got nothing but nice memories of her. I remember when she walked into my office between 15 or 20 years ago. [I thought] ‘Pretty girl'. And very talented. But maybe, you could say, a tormented soul."
Dawson's family would travel to Australia tomorrow. No funeral plans had been made.
TIMELINE TO TRAGEDY
Born on April 8, 1966, to Carole Warner.
Adopted at birth by Richard and Jose Dawson and raised in Auckland.
Left New Zealand at 16 to pursue an international modelling career before settling in Sydney.
In 1997 became beauty and fashion director for Woman's Day in Australia; later, style editor for New Idea; fashion correspondent for E! News; and panellist on Beauty and the Beast.
Returned to New Zealand in 2002 to present TVNZ agony aunt show How's Life and Prime's travel show Getaway.
In 2003, tracked down her birth mother in Wellington as part of a documentary, Charlotte's Web.
Contested the third series of Celebrity Treasure Island in 2004.
In 2007, left New Zealand again and returned to Australia, blaming the move on hostile media coverage; sued the Australian edition of Woman's Day over its coverage of her 2005 divorce from former Olympic swimmer Scott Miller and settled out of court.
Hosted Australian fashion TV series Runway to LA in 2007 and was a last-minute replacement host of Australia's Next Top Model for the 2008 live finale.
Appeared as a celebrity contestant in The Celebrity Apprentice Australia in 2012.
The same year was admitted to hospital in Sydney after attempting suicide following a much-publicised battle with Twitter trolls.
2008 to 2014: Appeared as a judge on Australia's Next Top Model, gaining new fame.
January 2014: Tells Newstalk ZB that singer Lorde should leave New Zealand because "the media are going to give her a very hard time"
WHERE TO FIND HELP
If you or someone you know needs to talk, these are 24-hour helplines:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Samaritans: 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency call 111
For information about suicide prevention, see http://www.spinz.org.nz
- Sunday Star Times